RYLAN Clark-Neal is back fronting another series of Ready Steady Cook, but this time he’s missing out on what should be a perk of the job because he’s banned from tasting the culinary magic created by the show’s contestants for Covid safety reasons.

The East London-born presenter isn’t going hungry, though, as soaking up the tips and tricks on the revived BBC show has boosted his cooking skills at home.

“The amount of things that I learn from just standing and watching,” says Clark-Neal, citing everything from how to peel an onion to “making flatbread in five minutes”.

Clark-Neal is back for a second bite of daytime reboot Ready Steady Cook, which was previously hosted by Ainsley Harriott and Fern Britton.

“It’s a real family-orientated show where it’s just giving people ideas for bits and bobs they can do,” he says. “We’re all so bored of cooking the same old thing every week.”

The pandemic has made the 32-year-old recalibrate his ‘ambitions’.

“My answer to ‘Any ambitions?’ would always have been ‘a day off’ but after the year we’ve just had, I don’t think I should say that anymore.”

Looking back at his TV success, he adds: “I’ve been really lucky. I’m an X Factor reject so I never expected the career I’ve got.”

He is keen to point out, though, it’s not just luck behind his move from X Factor joke act to in-demand presenter.

“I have worked for it and I’ve been nice to everyone. I don’t care if you’re my runner or the commissioner, I will speak to you exactly the same,” he adds.

A hallmark of Ready Steady Cook is the audience deciding on the best dishes using the familiar red tomato and green pepper voting cards. Although this series has no studio audience because of coronavirus safety rules, the cards remain.

“As much as we miss the audience... it’s been really lovely because we have changed the format this year,” Clark-Neal says.

The changes, which include a revamped kitchen, have meant he’s got to know the chefs better.

“The chefs who aren’t cooking are sat at a chef’s table watching everything that’s going on. Actually it’s the three remaining chefs that end up voting for their favourite dish, and that decides the winner,” he explains.

“It gives me a bit more time to have a laugh with them [the chefs] because when they’re not actually cooking they’re more at ease to have a bit of banter. Don’t get me wrong, even when they are cooking we do that, but they’ve also got 28 pans on the go and they’re trying to make a soup out of a cardigan.”

Just like Clark-Neal himself, there are no airs and graces on Ready Steady Cook.

“It doesn’t matter what age you are, what background you come from, where you live or even how much money you’ve got because all the food we do is on a budget,” the star says. “We’re not sitting there cooking a full lobster with a bottle of champagne. We’re genuinely sitting there with some lentils we found in the back of the cupboard and a butternut squash.”

  • Ready Steady Cook airs on weekdays on BBC One at 3.45pm and is available on iPlayer.